(1 Corinthians 4:6-7)
In this short section of scripture Paul is trying to give the Corinthian church some perspective regarding their call and conversion in Jesus Christ. Note his words,
6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? – (1 Corinthians 4:6-7)
From time to time all people need this same perspective. We need to stop, think and understand as Christians where we are and what we have been given.
And then we need to be thankful that the Almighty God and His Son Jesus Christ have been so gracious towards us to even give us a chance and to not wipe us off the face of the earth as they did in th days of Noah and of Sodom and Gomorrah. It is a humbling thought.
What Paul is preaching against in these two verses is pride and especially arrogance.
The Corinthian church had become proud and arrogant and were not thinking right. They were looking at themselves as if they had done something special or fantastic, and worse they had begun to split into factions where they were taking sides with one or another of those who ministered to them.
This is definitely not the way of the Lord. God despises pride and arrogance in man for these are evil manifestations and were the very things that caused Satan to fall from God's grace.
And God will destroy those who live in pride and arrogance today also.
Pride and arrogance are the exact opposites of humility. Jesus came humbled as a man to teach us and give example of the ways of God. He did not come resplendent and wielding power with might (although He did use the power of God for good). Instead He came in the form of a common man to teach, guide and give hope to mankind, not through pride but through humility.
The arrogance seen in the Corinthian church we still see today. In fact in some places it is a highly celebrated arrogance by those in the world. They talk about self-promotion and being a self-made man and so on. The focus in these descriptions you can see is the focus on “self.”
So too the Corinthian church was focused on “self” for they were puffed up with pride and arrogance and acting as though all that had seen done was through their own doing. It was as though they were responsible for their own salvation and all they had learned and thus they thought they were better than others.
But they were wrong, just as it is wrong today to consider we have done anything ourselves that might deserve God's commendation.
All that the church in Corinth had was given to them. All the teachings, the salvation, the baptism, the freedom from sin, the righteousness by faith and the Holy Spirit were given to them as gifts from God. All and any ongoing growth as they walked with Jesus Christ was given to them as free gifts.
They, and we today too, did not have to work or do anything to receive any of these things other than to believe and have faith.
The work of salvation and the ongoing work of coming into the perfection that is the image of Jesus Christ is not anything we are even able to do. It is the work of God in us through grace by faith in Jesus Christ and by the working of the Holy Spirit. We do not do anything and cannot do anything other than to believe, trust and hold fats our faith as we are tested and tried as we walk with Christ.
And to do this we must remember that it is all in God's hands, which then means we must be humble.
We are reliant TOTALLY upon God to bring us into His salvation in Jesus Christ and His eternal kingdom. Without humility we will not get there.
We can see that in the church at Corinth they had lost sight of this humility as Paul attempted to pull them back into the ways of the Lord. They had become arrogant in their thinking, believing that all that had been achieved was through their own will or their own works. And as such the church was in trouble.
Pride and arrogance set people apart from God for they do not and cannot submit to God when they are proud and arrogant. It is like a form of idolatry that is focused on self-worship where they believe they have got it all already and done it all themselves.
Pride and arrogance prevent people from learning. A proud person thinks they already know what needs to be known and so they refuse to listen. They think along lines like, “It's my way or the highway!” They don't listen to reason because their heart is hardened by pride and they believe anyone who has a different opinion to themselves is either just plain wrong or out to get them.
We can only come to God and learn the ways of Jesus Christ through humility. A humble person does not think themself better than others and is ready, able and willing to listen and learn. A humble person is open to reason and can take new teachings on board as the Holy Spirit leads them.
But being humble does not mean being weak. Humility on the other hand is tempered by strength of character and will to be able to stand against what is wrong or evil.
No one could ever say that Jesus Christ, who was arguably the most humble person ever on this planet, was weak. Jesus was strong and he taught people how to be strong in their humility. They had to be strong because they were going to come under pressure and the fiery ordeals that would try their faith.
Humility has a quiet strength that enables a person to stand with grace in the face of opposition. The strength of arrogance is loud, aggressive, vindictive and fiery. The strength of humility is in peace, overcoming, resilience and relying on the strength of God to see you through.
In the book of revelation we see it begins with letters to the seven churches of Asia. Two of these are excellent examples of the proud and arrogant versus the humble, and how God sees these two extremes.
First let us look at the example of the proud and arrogant church. The church in Laodicea, and as you look at this church you may well see attributes that exist in some churches today.
14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: 'The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation. 15 “'I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. – (Revelation 3:14-19)
This church is proud and arrogant. They think they have it all; wealth, growth and all the things that the world deems valuable and precious. They seek power of men and to impress men so that men will seek them out. And this is arrogance and self-seeking.
But what does God say? He says they are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. They have nothing that the Lord sees as being precious and valuable. They are proud and arrogant. They do not have the clothing of the righteous and they cannot even see that they are wrong, which is why He counsels them to seek salve to anoint and heal their eyes and sight so they can see the truth of their situation and repent.
There are too many churches in this same boat today with ministers who seek to impress people by building grand churches and dressing in fine and expensive clothing to impress the congregation. Their focus is growth in people, but not for salvation but to be the biggest and best, and to increase the financial coffers of the church. And this is pride and arrogance and it WILL be judged harshly by God just as He did with the church at Laodicea.
In contrast we see the way God speaks of the humble church in Philadelphia.
7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: 'The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. 8 “'I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie-behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. – (Revelation 3:7-11)
Look at what the Lord says to this church. He recognizes they have little or no power but they have held fast to the truth of the covenant and have not fallen when opposed by this other group who are led by Satan, these false Jews.
Furthermore, the Lord says He has put an open door before them that no-one can shut. He has opened the way for them into God's kingdom and into eternity because they listened, were humble and kept faithful despite their lack of power and the opposition that came against them.
Clearly this church was much favored by God for He speaks of them with love and joy and happiness to exalt them in His eyes and in His kingdom when the time comes.
This is the way of the Lord. It is the way of humility.
Pride and arrogance lead to exclusion and death, but humility leads to acceptance by God and life with Him into eternity. Do not fall into the ways of the church at Corinth and seek not the path of the church at Laodicea. Instead seek the humble path that leads to Jesus Christ and to life.
(Photo sourced from freeimages.com provided by Ryan Forkel)
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